Seeking their seventh straight Serie A win, Atalanta BC welcome Roma to the Gewiss Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
With a nine-point lead over their capital counterparts, the Bergamaschi will be favourites to prevail, given the visitors’ long line of failures against fellow top-four contenders.
Having bounced straight back from crashing out of the Champions League with a win at Verona last weekend, Atalanta remain the form side in Serie A, and they are now up to third in the table – just three points from the summit.
La Dea have lost just one of their last twelve games all told, and such consistency has sparked talk of another improbable Scudetto challenge for the modestly-funded club, who have already downed Napoli and Juventus during the past month.
Gian Piero Gasperini saw his side reach an excellent tally of eight wins from nine league outings on the road last week, as they fought back from conceding the opening goal to in-form Verona striker Giovanni Simeone, with fringe players Teun Koopmeiners and Aleksei Miranchuk netting either side of the interval to secure a 2-1 victory.
Curiously, though, Atalanta have not fared half as well on Bergamo soil this term, having come out on top in just three of their eight Serie A home fixtures to date.
Nonetheless, the Nerazzurri have beaten this weekend’s opponents 6-2 on aggregate over the pair’s last two meetings at the Gewiss Stadium, and their Roman rivals do not tend to travel well.
With a Europa League campaign to consider in the new year – where they start out in the second-tier competition with a tie against Olympiakos – Atalanta will want to press on towards the top of the standings by maintaining momentum domestically. The chance to do so certainly presents itself in the coming weeks, as they face Genoa, Torino and Udinese either side of the brief winter break, which starts next week.
After a run of four losses from six Serie A games had seen Roma slip outside the European places, they at least steadied the ship with Monday’s victory over Spezia at Stadio Olimpico
Jose Mourinho’s men went ahead early on through Chris Smalling, whose injury-scarred campaign has only just got up and running, before the Englishman’s defensive colleague Roger Ibanez added a second to seal a 2-0 win over Thiago Motta’s struggling side.
Indeed, taking care of business against the league’s lesser lights has not proved much of an issue for the Giallorossi for several months now, but under both Mourinho and his predecessor Paulo Fonseca, they have not won any of their last 12 encounters with sides starting the day in the top five.
Most recently in that streak, they lost to both Milan clubs, so will hope for rather than expect three points when visiting opponents who are in flying form, and whom they have failed to beat in seven successive Serie A matches.
The same number of league losses already this season suggests that Mourinho is still searching for a way to get the best out of his squad, so even a point would be gratefully received by Roma on Saturday – particularly with games against Milan and Juventus to come straight after the break.
Atalanta BC Serie A form:
Atalanta BC form (all competitions):
Roma Serie A form:
Roma form (all competitions):
We say: Atalanta BC 2-1 Roma
Atalanta, by far the team demonstrating the greater cohesion and flair over the past few weeks, must surely be favoured for a fourth win in five versus Roma on Saturday.
Relatively untroubled by injuries, the hosts’ squad is packed with various attacking options who can tilt the balance in their favour, while – as Mourinho loves to point out – the visitors’ resources are rather more stretched.